Have you ever got into an exam and your mind has gone completely blank? You know that you’ve attended the lecture, written up your notes and produced a mind-map last week and nope. Still can’t remember. But how can this possibly be? You have spent hours (almost lived) in the library and your mind is still blank. WHAT?! 🤬😤
It might be the way you are revising is not effective. Let me help you better understand the different learning styles and how you can optimise your revision activities.
1. The visual (spatial) learning style
If you use the visual style, you prefer to use images, colours, images and maps to organise and make sense of information. You’re likely to remember a face, have a good sense of direction and you can easily visualise objects, plans and outcomes. You are prone to choose spatial means to encode experiences, thoughts and emotions to express yourself and your ideas.
If you are a spatial learner, visualization will come easily to you – use of colour, layout and spatial organisation in associations will help you to remember information. Whiteboards, mind maps and diagrams are ways in which can help you visualize links between sets of information. There are many online resources and learning tools which can cater to your preferred learning style, don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best for you. It’s probably worth investing in some coloured pens and highlighters and practice drawing simple pictures and icons to replace words. Customising your notes will help you create your own system and become more comfortable with dealing with information.
2. Aural learning style
If you have an aural learning style, you prefer to work with sound and music. These types of learners typically can play a musical instrument, sing and have a good sense of pitch and rhythm. You may often find yourself humming or tapping to a song (you’re the best at recalling famous TV advert jingles) – ring a bell?
Being an aural learner, you’ll want to use sound, rhyme and music in your learning. Recording you speaking your revision notes on your phone will help information to sink in. Listening to music playing in the background can be a distraction for some people, but it is often soothing and necessary for those who are particularly responsive to sounds – choose songs and make playlists which energise you and put you in a positive, motivated mindset. Watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts will help you with your revision. Sure, people may think you are crazy, but talking to yourself can help you better remember information and learn more effectively. Another option could be is to have a friend read your notes and have you answer the questions.
3. Verbal (linguistic) learning style
You are able to easily express yourself both in writing and verbally if you are a verbal learner. You love reading and writing and regularly will make an effort to find the meaning of new words – even words and phrases you have picked up recently when talking to others. Many people who have a verbal learning style pursuit jobs such as public speaking, politics, writing and journalism.
If you are a verbal learner, you’ll want to capitalize on your strengths which will involve listening, speaking and collaborating with others. Reading your notes out loud can help you hear the material and process it through your own verbalisation and repeat (repetition is a key to retention of information). Word-based techniques such as scripting will be a powerful tool for you. Discussions, debates, storytelling and teaching others will help you as verbal learners thrive through the interpersonal connections offered in group work.
4. Physical (kinesthetic) learning style
If a physical style is more like you, it’s likely that you use your body and sense of touch to learn about things. Also known as tactile learning, you have a preference for learning by doing and engaging in physical activities. Sitting still in lectures probably is not ideal for kinesthetic learners as they are most engaged while moving – gripping pencils, chewing gum, snacking, tapping a pen are characteristics physical learners possess.
If you have a physical style, then writing and drawing diagrams are (physical) techniques which you should incorporate into all stages of your learning. As you tend to have great hand-eye coordination, taking notes while reading or studying may benefit you as you will keep yourself engaged (and remember to take regular breaks as you don’t like sitting for long periods of time). It’s important you find a type of study space that accommodates your need for movement and engagement. Chewing gum is surprisingly effective for this learning style but for others, it’s about finding a way to be active whilst learning – do what feels right and seems to work for you.
5. Logical learning style
If you like maths and logical reasoning, then you could have a logical learning style. You are able to identify patterns easily and make connections between concepts which means you are able to classify and group information to help you learn and understand it. Using deductive reasoning to solve problems with solutions so playing strategy games like chess or Call of Duty is enjoyable. You are very investigative and curious, you like to investigate further to find the reason or inner workings behind a concept.
When looking through content, you will find the best results by breaking large amounts of material down into segments and looking for patterns, associations and relationships between concepts in order to maximise your understanding. If your lectures and textbooks lack visual representations, you can always make your own – graphs, charts and maps are great ways to personalise information, helping you to have a clearer understanding. Furthermore, creating and using lists by extracting key points from your material will help you categorize information in a logical way.
6. Social learning style
As a social learner, you are probably a good communicator with others, spoken or written and people tend to receive your message well and even come to you for advice. You are a good listener and understand other’s views, so it makes sense that learning with peers and in groups will work for you. You will heighten your learning by bouncing your thoughts off other people and listening to how they respond. Such collaboration will help you form an opinion or understanding of the information at hand. You may be a social butterfly and find yourself involved in a society or sports club where you can interact with like-minded people.
As you thrive on interpersonal interaction, aim to work with others as much as possible and take advantage of any collaborative activities (attend your seminars) that come your way. Role-playing, mind-mapping with a group and sharing your research can help you to process information more easily, whilst taking in knowledge shared by others. By listening to how others solve their issues, you may get further ideas on how to solve your own. Even if you like studying alone, take time to plan your studying and set goals for the kind of information you want to take from the material, and schedule time to share this with others.
7. Solitary learning style
If you are more private and independent, you could have a solitary learning style. You concentrate well and well aware of your own thinking with a preference for having a great deal of quiet time for introspection. You may analyze the different ways you think and feel and enjoy taking the opportunity to reflect on a topic and analyze the different aspects of it; the reflection will likely to apply to yourself as well as outside situations. Solitary people are very self-aware and may keep a journal as a method for collecting thoughts and spend time to reflect on past events including accomplishments and challenges. You prefer to work on problems by yourself in a quiet space, rather than hash it out with others. You have a clear sense of direction, someone who likes to set goals and create plans.
First, you’ll benefit by working from a quiet ‘basecamp’ where you can regularly retreat which will help you put you in the right frame of mind for focusing on your work. Being an intrapersonal learner, you enjoy writing and taking time to jot down your thoughts regarding the topic you are learning – by doing so, the information will become more relatable. Making lists and sticking to an agenda (such as how many pages you’d like to read) will help you stay organised and motivated which will increase your productivity. Such personality traits can be used to your advantage, so understanding your reasons for undertaking each activity will ensure you are happy with your goals and the direction you’re going in.
Now you might think your preferred way to learn applies to several of the above learning styles which is absolutely fine (I am visual, aural and social) and if you truly are one style, then use the tips I have provided to enhance your revision. Now that you have this information available and some study tips, it’s now down to you to experiment and find out which work best for you. Don’t be afraid to try out new ways, it won’t be a waste of time, I promise you. If you never try, you’ll never know.